We’ve all seen a dog drag their butt, or scoot, on the carpet or grass and thought what a weird behavior! But when a cat does it, it may seem all the more odd. After all, cats are much more dignified and would never willingly subject themselves to such a quirky behavior. However, the fact remains that sometimes cats do drag their butts. Instead of pulling out your camera for a comical video, you should be looking to do something about it.
Why Do Cats Scoot?
The quick answer to why a cat would scoot is due to pruritis, or itching of the perianal area. They’re trying to scratch an itch. Now that itch can be brought on by a number of things, including parasites, allergies, and impacted anal glands.
Let’s break those reasons down further to help you identify the cause behind your cat dragging their butt and how you can remedy the issue.
Impacted anal glands
While this is usually something that dog parents have to worry more about, it can still happen in our feline friends. Your cat has two anal glands located just inside the anus. These glands are responsible for storing and releasing a dark, smelly liquid when your cat defecates. This liquid gives your cat’s feces their signature scent and works as a form of communication between your cat and others in the area, letting them know who did what and where. When functioning properly, these glands empty on their own with each bowel movement that your cat has. However, these glands can become clogged causing a painful and irritated hind end. Your cat may drag their butt in an effort to try to empty those anal glands in a mechanical way to provide some relief.
Unfortunately, our feline friends aren’t immune to parasites. They can get them both internally and externally. Occasionally, a cat may scoot due to external parasites, like fleas or mites, but it’s more commonly a sign of the internal kind of creepy-crawlies. Intestinal worms live in your cat’s digestive system. The adults lay eggs that are then pooped out by your cat in order to find a new home to thrive. Sometimes these eggs, especially if they’re in large numbers, can cause irritation to the anus and perianal area.
Tapeworms may be especially irritative as they release little segments that then crawl from the digestive tract to the outside world where they hope to hitch a ride to their next home.
Internal parasites aren’t always visible to the naked eye, so don’t rely on seeing them on your cat or in their feces as a diagnosis. Rather, have a fecal examination performed by your veterinarian to positively nail down if parasites are your cat’s reason for dragging their butt.
Parasites will usually come with other symptoms, besides just scooting. You may actually see tapeworm segments, which look like little grains of rice stuck to your cat’s tail and around their anus. In more severe cases, a cat may lose weight, have a dull haircoat, or even vomit up those nasty worms.
An allergy to food or to something in your cat’s environment can cause itchiness and irritation that would make them want to drag their butt. Environmental allergies tend to affect the thin-haired or hairless regions of the body since the allergen can more easily come in contact with the skin there. The perianal region or anus is one of those areas, as well as the face, ears, and belly. You may also notice redness or red bumps and itchiness in those areas as well. Environmental allergies can be hard to control as
a) it’s sometimes difficult to determine the exact allergen, and
b) you sometimes can’t remove the allergen from your cat’s environment.
Food allergies can pop up as well, causing irritation to the anus. Food allergies are most commonly to the protein source in your cat’s food, mainly chicken, beef, or egg. They may show up as vomiting and diarrhea as well. Food allergies typically respond well to a novel, or new, protein diet. Fortunately, there are many of these available on the market these days using proteins like fish, lamb, or venison.
Other digestive issues
Diarrhea from an upset digestive system or some stubborn feces can also cause your cat to drag their butt. Frequent diarrhea can leave the anus raw and sore, and some cats may drag it as a form of relief. More often, though, they will try to clean it by licking it frequently. Sometimes your cat may drag their butt if they’re trying to get rid of some stuck-on feces as well.
What Should You Do If Your Cat is Scooting?
Scooting is not a normal behavior in cats. If you notice your cat doing it one time, it might just be a freak accident or they were able to take care of something that was bothering them on their own. However, if your cat seems to have taken up a new hobby that consists solely of scooting, it’s time to do something about it. You can start by taking a peek under their tail, if you’re comfortable. You may find some feces or other irritate lurking there that could be causing them to drag their butt and can easily be removed. You may notice redness or worms as well, clueing you in to what is behind their behind issues.
If you don’t find a quick fix for your cat’s scooting behavior, it’s time to enlist your veterinarian’s help. They will be able to determine if parasites are the problem by doing a fecal float, or if your cat’s anal glands are to blame by doing a digital exam. The vet may also take skin scrapings to identify mites or help you determine possible allergens if that’s the culprit. Your vet can also help treat your cat’s upset stomach that is causing diarrhea or stuck-on feces leading to scooting as well.
What Are the Treatments for a Cat Dragging Their Butt?
Parasites are easily treated with an oral or topical dewormer. There are many products available from your vet that will treat both internal and external parasites in one dose, making it the perfect multi-tasking tool.
Anal glands are treated by manual expression, something that your veterinarian can do with a little lube and a latex glove. If impacted anal glands become a consistent problem, increasing your cat’s fiber intake may help. In rare cases, the anal glands can be surgically removed to prevent persistent impaction and infections.
Allergies are best treated by removing the allergen. As I said before, this is sometimes not an easy task. If the allergen can’t be found or removed, your vet may prescribe antihistamines or anti-inflammatories to help relieve the itch. For food allergies, your vet may instruct you on feeding your cat an elimination diet where you limit the number of ingredients in your cat’s food in order to pinpoint the problem item. Again, novel protein diets are also an option and you should be able to find one doesn’t use any protein from typical sources.